Wine Signs Going UP!

After a few delays, new directional and winery identifying signs are being erected throughout the Yakima Valley. Recognizing the need to improve, update and unify directional signs to wineries, the Yakima County Development Association (New Vision) has led a project with various partners to replace and update existing directional signs.

The project is funded through Yakima County’s Supporting Investments in Economic Diversification (SIED) Board.

“These new signs will greatly help visitors and residents better find the wineries,” said John Cooper of the Yakima Valley Visitors and Convention Bureau. “Directional signs are crucial to the success of our wineries.” Project partners included New Vision, Yakima County, Yakima Valley Visitors and Convention Bureau with the feedback and support of the wineries in Yakima Valley.

The wine industry plays an important role in Yakima County’s economy. According to a 2012 study commissioned by the Washington Wine Commission there are 3,149 folks employed in the wine industry in Yakima County, generates more than $526 million annually to the local economy and produces $44 million in state and local taxes.

Visitors Bureau Hosts Annual Lunch and Presents Awards

The Yakima Valley Visitors & Convention Bureau held its Annual Lunch today at the Yakima Convention Center. Making one of his first speaking engagements in Washington was Steve Warner, the new Executive Director of  the Washington Wine Commission. Mr. Warner started work with the commission in March, previously working for Merck & Co., Inc., where he was Managing Director based in Bucharest, Romania. Prior to that, he held General Manager and marketing positions in global and regional marketing in the Asia Pacific region and led teams while living in Seoul, South Korea; Bangkok, Thailand; and several domestic markets. Mr. Warner holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from East Tennessee State University and a master’s of business administration in international business and finance from Rutgers University.

Born and raised in Washington State, including living in the Cle Elum and Roslyn areas of Central Washington,  Mr. Warner graduated from West Seattle High School. He served in the United States military’s Special Operations Command, first as a Sergeant in the U.S. Air Force and then as a Lieutenant Commander in the U.S. Navy.

At the event he discussed the commission’s new Strategic Plan, the future of Washington wine and its role in tourism.

In addition, the Visitors Bureau presented the Chairman’s Award to Al DeAtley and Janet Leduc of Washington Wine Country. The award recognizes outstanding contributions made by an organization or individual for generating economic vitality for the Yakima Valley.

Special recognition awards were presented to the Yakima County Commissioners for their support of new signing to the wineries and David McFadden of New Vision-Yakima County Development Association for coordinating the sign project with the wineries and Yakima County staff.

The mission of the Yakima Valley Visitors and Convention Bureau is to stimulate economic development by marketing the Yakima Valley for conventions, groups and leisure travel.

Yakima Valley Meeting Industry Plays Ball!

Last week, the meeting and hospitality industry of greater Yakima journeyed to Cheney Stadium in Tacoma to show meeting and sports planners that the region is ready to host their events and help them hit a home run!

Sponsored by Yakima Valley Visitors and Convention Bureau, Yakima Convention Center and Yakima Valley Sports Commission, representatives from 20 groups came to the home of the Tacoma Rainiers to enjoy Yakima hospitality, learn about new amenities and services for the meeting and sports industry and have fun with a baseball theme.

Joining the organizations were additional meeting facilities like the State Fair Park and local hotel properties. The feedback received from the event planners was quite positive. In all, it was a home run!

Economic Impact of Washington Wine Industry

Washington wines are well-known for their quality. Now a recent study confirms the industry is also a growing powerhouse for the state’s economy.

Commissioned by the Washington State Wine Commission and conducted by Stonebridge Research, the study shows Washington wine contributes $8.6 billion annually to the state economy and supports nearly 30,000 jobs.

The study analyzed wine related data by county. The Yakima Valley American Viticulture Area (AVA) and sub AVAs like Red Mountain and Rattlesnake Hills are located in two counties (Yakima and Benton). These two counties combined have 42,193 acres of wine grapes and produce 51% of the wine in Washington. They also account for $1.45 billion in direct and indirect economic impact from the wine and related industries while supporting 8,341 jobs.

According to the report, the Washington wine industry produced 11.2 million cases of wine in 2010 and generated more than $237 million in annual tax revenues in Washington.  In addition, direct winery revenue topped $1 billion in 2010 and generated wages of nearly $1.2 billion within the state.

The study had a number of things of interest. At the time of the report there was 739 licensed wineries. Readers should be cautioned that a license does not necessarily mean they have a tasting room. Some of those wineries are not actively in production, others hold multiple licenses while some are producers who focus on wholesale to retail outlets.

As for tourism, wine is crucial to our industry, in particular here in Eastern Washington, ‘where the grapes are grown.’ The report estimates that there are 2.4 million visitors to Washington wineries, resulting in $1.05 billion in wine related tourism expenditures.

I did take exception to one broad comment that the researchers made:  “Many of Washington’s wine regions do not track visitor numbers and, unfortunately, like many U.S. wine producing regions, do not develop the targeted visitor promotion strategies which such information permits.”  It is difficult to count visitors, but tracking their numbers alone does not lead to targeted promotional strategies: gathering good data on your visitor does. Maybe the researchers meant ‘track’  in the sense of gathering data and research on wine visitors.  Here in the Yakima Valley, our organization, the Yakima Valley Visitors & Convention Bureau, conducted studies of our visitors in 2010 (the majority of which were at wine events and wineries). This data, along with other research and industry data, has helped us to craft very effective and targeted wine tourism marketing efforts.

Some interesting facts from the Washington Wine Commission report:

  • While the five largest producers represent more than 70% of wine production, the next 30 wineries account for about 20% to 25% of production, with several hundred very small producers delivering about 5% of the state’s total production.
  • Except for the largest producers, the majority of the wine produced in Washington is
    sold in the Pacific Northwest, with 35% or more sold within the state.
  • Not only are visitors to wineries and vineyards important sources of wine sales themselves but,
    perhaps most importantly, research has repeatedly found that such visits have major, sustaining
    impacts on both visiting consumers and trade. These visitors become the winery’s “brand
    ambassadors,” passionate advocates for their “discoveries.”
  • The wine consumer “demographic” is a very attractive consumer segment: affluent, well-educated and adventurous.

The bottom line is Washington wine has come a long way, is a powerhouse for our state’s economy and holds great potential for the future.

Here’s a link to the full report:

John Cooper

Yakima Valley Marketed at USTA Pow Wow

U.S. Travel Association’s International Pow Wow is the travel industry’s premier international marketplace and the largest generator of travel to the U.S.  In total there were nearly 5,000 attendees representing more than 70 countries including U.S. exhibitors, international and domestic travel buyers plus journalists.

In just three days of intensive pre-scheduled business appointments, more than 1,000 U.S. travel organizations from every region of the U.S., and close to 1,200 international and domestic buyers from more than 70 countries, conducted business negotiations that resulted a projected $3.5 billion in future USA travel.

The Yakima Valley Visitors & Convention Bureau was represented in and coordinated the Washington Tourism Alliance booth and appointments. Also attending were representatives from the Olympia/Thurston County VCB, the Tacoma Regional CVB and Squaxin Island Tribe Tourism Department and Northwest Tribal Tourism.

In total the group had 37 scheduled twenty minute appointments plus a dozen walk up appointments and requests with tour operators and international media.